Charleston County is hoping to avoid a court fight with a developer who threatened to close off access to Bulow Boat Landing near Hollywood, but a month of on-and-off talks has yielded little progress.
Poplar Grove developer Vic Mills says the boat landing, adjacent to the development, attracts crime and trash-dumping, and he wants to prevent public access at night.
"We do not have issues with local citizens fishing and kayaking and launching boats," Mills said. "We are still talking, and want to come up with something that works for everyone."
Mills' plan to build an access gate on the public road leading to the boat landing and a local cemetery prompted a public backlash and a stop-work order from Charleston County in early June.
Weeks later, in an incident that appeared to highlight Mills' concerns, a stolen car was recovered from the water at the bottom of the boat ramp.
Charleston County officials have proposed installing lighting in the ramp area, but Mills said that wouldn't fit in with the rural development, and wouldn't limit late-night access.
If a compromise can't be reached, Mills said, the courts could be asked to rule on his position that the county has no claim to the boat landing, and that the county does not actually own Bulow Landing Road, which is also the entrance road to the next phase of the Poplar Grove development.
"Discussions are ongoing, and the public has access," county spokesman Shawn Smetana said.
Some of the discussions have involved permits to pave Bulow Landing Road. The county has no objection to the developer paving the road but issued a stop-work order after work began in May without permits.
The Poplar Grove development company owns the boat landing, but Charleston County claims a long-term easement to operate a public boat landing was granted by a paper company in the 1960s. The county maintains Bulow Landing Road is and has always been a public road.
Mills believes the county's boat landing easement is for a different property because the landing is in Dorchester County, just over the county line.
"We could put a gate on it tomorrow," Mills claimed in June.
State Rep. Robert Brown, D-Hollywood, said Monday that gating the road would be unacceptable.
"Anything shy of keeping that road open, and I'm not going to be happy about," Brown said.
"I'm going to wait and see what the county comes up with, but I promise you this, (the issue is) not going away if he thinks he can put a gate up."
Kayaking enthusiasts have also been pressing for county officials to resolve the situation and preserve public access to Rantowles Creek.
"Any thought of closing this long standing public landing to the general public and families that use it for the profit of some developer cannot be allowed," said Dan Hoke, president of Low Country Paddlers, in a widely distributed letter in June. "Please do whatever it takes to rein in this crazy idea."
Reach David Slade at 937-5552